South Charlotte

Foodie cooks, shoots, writes

Food blogger Vanessa Smith makes culinary magic in the small kitchen of her apartment near Randolph Road.

Think pickled banana peppers; caramelized figs served with ricotta cheese and honey lemon pistachios; peach gazpacho garnished with Greek yogurt; and spicy zucchini and corn relish.

And that's just a sampling.

Smith, 24, trained in culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

An internship brought the New Jersey native to Charlotte, and she decided to stay.

Smith works as a chef at FrontCourt restaurant in Time Warner Cable Arena, where the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats play.

During basketball's off-season, she travels, cooking at NASCAR races and other events in places including Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. This year, she also worked the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens, N.Y.

Food is Smith's livelihood, but it also is her hobby. It's also the reason she started her blog, Life Undeveloped, about a year ago. The online journal lets her keep in touch with family and friends who want to know what's cooking.

A friend suggested the name - a reference, she says, to a life and career in the early stages, and to undeveloped film.

Photography is another passion of Smith's, one she indulges through food pictures to accompany her blog posts.

She shoots with a digital SLR camera.

Fellow bloggers and a photographer aunt offer advice.

"I think natural light is probably one of the most important things," said Smith. "It makes a world of a difference."

Other recognition came from recipes. Her corn and avocado soup appeared on the site in a segment on chilled summer soups.

For those wanting to emulate Smith's success but feeling daunted by her talent, take heart: Even a pro like Smith sometimes makes mistakes.

Smith relates an anecdote of baking individual chocolate cakes for 100 at work in ramekin dishes, desserts she usually made in smaller quantities.

The cakes sank in the middle, but Smith's spirits didn't.

You just have to work it out, she says. She worked that issue out by remaking all 100 cakes.

Smith is a member of Charlotte Food Bloggers, a local organization of like minds, and soon will travel to Food Blog Forum in Nashville, Tenn., for networking, food-styling tips and blogger etiquette sessions.

One of her dreams is to open a food truck with a rotating menu of fruity drinks and seasonal foods. She sees food trucks' growing popularity and the local food movement as enduring trends.

As for the blog?

"I would love for it to turn into something more," Smith said, but "I'm not necessarily expecting it to because there's so many other blogs out there."